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New page on mould sampling myths


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Good evening, Gents!

For those who may be interested, I have assembled a discussion on mould testing and sampling myths. The page is located http://forensic-applications.com/moulds/sampling.html

The info is more or less the issues I have presented in various discussions here. As usual, not everyone on this forum will like what I have said, and others will find it useful. I will be cleaning it up in the days to come, and any criticisms good or bad, are welcome!

Cheers!

Caoimhín P. Connell

Forensic Industrial Hygienist

www.forensic-applications.com

(The opinions expressed here are exclusively my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect my professional opinion, opinion of my employer, agency, peers, or professional affiliates. The above post is for information only and does not reflect professional advice and is not intended to supercede the professional advice of others.)

AMDG

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Caoimhin,

Nice piece of work!

Where in this paper do you address the quality of the Snake Oil?

I own a remediation company, so found your comments about Home Inspectors and visual inspection very cogent.

A bit of thread drift. On another thread we are talking about "ride alongs" and I kinda wonder how a new inspector will be able to keep focused on inspecting houses if the experienced person "does it all".

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I really like it! That may be due to the fact it reinforces most of my preexisting bias about the goofiness of mold testing, but also because it looks to be well supported and researched. Good work.

Have you got it in .pdf form? I'm going to send folks to the site, but it'd be nice to have on file.

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Many people feel mold is a problem. Maybe even many many. So if we, as home inspectors, find, say, an attic where the underside of the roof deck is covered with black splotches (obvious mold), how do we report it so as to:

Cover our arse...

Cover our client's arse...

Reason I ask; regardless of what we as professionals suspect is the truth, many people are deathly afraid of mold; some even feel it is evil. If our client sees mold after they move in, and we haven't said "something", we risk a lawsuit.

Even if we report it, an attorney could argue we sugar-coated the issue (by telling the *truth*), or even blew it out of proportion, depending on whose side the attorney is on.

If our client goes to sell the house, and an inspector brings up the mold issue, the seller risks losing the sale.

I'm not afraid of being sued; ask anyone who knows me. But again, with that in mind, how do you all think we report mold? I'm not looking for disclaimers; I have such. But if I see an obvious mold issue, such as the attic one I started off with, I'm going to be specific about it in my report. I just wonder if I can report on such in a different and better way.

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Many people feel mold is a problem. Maybe even many many. So if we, as home inspectors, find, say, an attic where the underside of the roof deck is covered with black splotches (obvious mold), how do we report it so as to:

Cover our arse...

Cover our client's arse...

Reason I ask; regardless of what we as professionals suspect is the truth, many people are deathly afraid of mold; some even feel it is evil. If our client sees mold after they move in, and we haven't said "something", we risk a lawsuit.

Even if we report it, an attorney could argue we sugar-coated the issue (by telling the *truth*), or even blew it out of proportion, depending on whose side the attorney is on.

If our client goes to sell the house, and an inspector brings up the mold issue, the seller risks losing the sale.

I'm not afraid of being sued; ask anyone who knows me. But again, with that in mind, how do you all think we report mold? I'm not looking for disclaimers; I have such. But if I see an obvious mold issue, such as the attic one I started off with, I'm going to be specific about it in my report. I just wonder if I can report on such in a different and better way.

My SmartyPantsLawyer (SPL) covered the mold scare/frenzy with something like this abridged commentary, dredged from my memory.

Mold can turn up anywhere at any time. It may grow slowly or quickly. Some molds can make some people sick. We can't confirm or rule out the presence of mold in any dwelling.

In your (let's say attic), I saw some (describe mold, but don't name it anything like toxic black mold). The only practical way to determine whether or not this growth is harmful is to have it observed and tested in a good laboratory. If you're worried about mold, hire a qualified person or company to collect the substance, have it tested, and report the results of the test to you.

As brother Katen says, if you cover your client's arse, you will cover your own.

WJ

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Hi Jerry-

That’s funny that you ran into it right after your post.

Now – for fun, here’s what I would say about the staining (based on nothing more than the photo):

The roof decking visible from the attic contained moderate to heavy colonization of a common indoor mould visually similar to one of the Cladosporia. The Cladosporia are one of the most common moulds on the planet.

The growth patterns indicate that the organism had colonized the roofing material prior to installation, and the roofing materials were installed with the staining already present. The visual evidence suggests that the dark blotches are not actual vegetative masses, but rather enzyme stains left behind by the, now dormant, mould.

The visual evidence indicates that the attic does not have a moisture problem.

Since the staining is in the attic, the mould does not constitute an aesthetic problem. Since the staining in the attic is probably due to Cladosporia, and since there is no significant route of migration from the attic to the occupied space, the there is no significant risk of exposure.

Of course the discussion would give a little more detail about the rationale underpinning the observations, but that would be the crux of the argument… Followed by an invoice that I consider too small, and the client considers too big… of course.

Cheers!

Caoimhín P. Connell

Forensic Industrial Hygienist

www.forensic-applications.com

(The opinions expressed here are exclusively my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect my professional opinion, opinion of my employer, agency, peers, or professional affiliates. The above post is for information only and does not reflect professional advice and is not intended to supercede the professional advice of others.)

AMDG

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Since we're playing show 'n' tell, check out this yuck from a couple of weeks ago.

The mold hysteria is overblown, but the stuff does pack a punch. When I left this house, my eyes were watery and itchy, my throat felt constricted, and I had a horrible headache.

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I am "guessing" that the visual appearance being almost a flat black, might lead to the indication that it is "old". In my other life as a franchisee, I was one of the one's to believe I was doing my customer's a service by testing the mold and having it sampled through a lab. I have since come to realize the general belief is that, if there is mold present, clean it up no matter the type. Make sure the attic is breathing correctly and there are no leaks. Mold, when it is active gives off a spotty/fuzzy appearance usually gray in color with a small spec of different color in the middle. And there is a noticeable odor(musty).

I am a bit curious how to tell if it was from the initial install also. Almost always, in my experience, that type of staining was from an old roof leak that led to the moisture that caused mold and was semi remedied by the roof replacement.

Caoimhin, I always referred to it as Cladosporium. same/same?

V/R

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Hello Randy and Bain and Robert!

Randy first…

Question:

Caomhin, why would you conclude there isn't a moisture problem in the attic?

Answer:

Remember that my comments are based exclusively on the photo. If I were in the house, I would actually be able to make the determination. However, there is no information in the photo that would indicate a mould problem.

Here’s why. Even a quick glance at the photo reveals that we are looking at two distinct 4X8 sheets of plywood decking. The reason we can visually distinguish the two pieces so readily is that not only is the fungal growth patterns on the two pieces completely different, but the growth patterns actually stop at the edge of each piece.

In a situation where the mould growth was active after the installation of the material, the growth pattern would speak to the issue of the occurrence of moisture (which in this case would either have to be condensation or wicking through the material). If it was wicking, the growth pattern would probably be the same on both pieces, and the fungal mycelia would breach the edges and continue growing onto the abutting piece.

If it was condensation, then not only would the above be true, but the timber framing would also be colonized (which it isn’t). Not only is there no colonization on the timber framing, but if you look, you will see that the growth of the mould actually passes under the framing. Therefore, the mould was on the decking when the decking was installed, and it was laid atop of the framing.

If there was a moisture problem in the frame of the photograph, fungal mycelia would have breached the surface of the decking onto the framing (which it has not done) – ergo: The framing is dry and always has been since installation. Now if the framing is dry, how could the decking be wet? It isn’t.

The spotty colonies are probably Cladosporia but the larger patches are also consistent with Memnoniella. This tells me the sheets were left uncovered to the elements for quite a while and got REALLY wet. In either case, it’s unimportant, since the workmen, handling the decking would have rubbed off a lot of the actual growth, leaving behind the enzyme staining.

Were the plywood sheets that dark upon installation? Probably.

Bain:

Photo #1: No visible mould in the photo.

Photo #2: Possible small colony of the dreaded fungus Surpula lacrymans in the corner (the white stuff – possibly VERY problematic since if it is active, and left untreated, it can lead to structural damage in just a few years). S. lacrymans is not a mould, but it is a significant fungal concern. Otherwise, no visible mould in photo #2. Edit: As soon as I posted this, I changed my mind - it's probably not S. lacrymans (although it could be, but it is a lignin attacker, known as a "white rot."

Photo #3: No visible mould in the photo. None of the dark discoloration is mould and none of it is fungal (however, tests for mould would be POSITIVE).

Photo #4: No visible mould in the photo. An air sample from this area would be possibly tens to thousands of spores per cubic meter of air, which would be about normal for a normal dry crawlspace with no mould.

Robert!

"Cladosporium" is the singular for the genus. Thus “That species of mould belongs to Cladosporium.â€

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Now – of course – I could be completely wrong. After all, I think standing in the middle of a river in the rain trying to catch fish is time well spent – how daft is that?

Cheers!

Caoimhín P. Connell

Forensic Industrial Hygienist

www.forensic-applications.com

Daft, maybe, but I have it on good authority you could field-strip a 1911 in about 22 seconds. You da man.

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1911’s are excellent. You can tie a rope through the trigger guard and the other end to your boat. Throw said piece of equipment overboard to keep your boat from drifting.

(I always put the 1911’s in front of me as a distraction [:-wiltel] buys me an extra second or two; that's why I'm 51 years old and devoid of unatural holes).

Cheers!

CPC

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Photos #2 and #5 are tricky. The dark discoloration may contain mould, but it is not consistent with a fulminant bloom. Based on the photos, I’m going to guess the discoloration is not primarily due to mould and is not predominantly mould.

By the way, I learned a valuable lesson. When you post a reply don't click on the "Check here to subscribe to this topic." Otherwise you'll get a email respnse for EACH check mark - Help!

CPC

(The opinions expressed here are exclusively my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect my professional opinion, opinion of my employer, agency, peers, or professional affiliates. The above post is for information only and does not reflect professional advice and is not intended to supercede the professional advice of others.)

AMDG

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From time to time, we have our little discussions about mould inspections/sampling, and I am definately of the mind set that belives most mould inspections are little more than snake oil shows.

I don't start pulling fire alarms when I see mould, I do believe that "some people are sensitive to some moulds," and removing the cause, and a clean up is most often all it takes. I advise the client that if they really want the mould tested and identified, we will need an industrial hygienist, or micologist. Certainly not a "two day wonder."

I do not do... "Mould Inspections," nor do I want to. But, I have been thinking about mould removal... For those client's that want it removed/cleaned up. I am interested in hearing Caoimhkn's (and everyone else's) opinions about remediators. Is it necessary to study for years to become a "worthwhile" remediator? I see some websites that guarentee 100% removal, and guarentee that it won't return. I find that difficult, since I believe that mould is everywhere on earth.

I believe the service should be to eliminate the cause, dry it up, and clean up whatever is possible. I've seen buildings that needed a quick clean up, from a one time leak, and buildings that needed total gutting, from prolonged heavy exposure... and everything in between.

I see a number of schools/"institutes" that train remediators, and wonder which is the most reputable? Which offers the best training? Or are they all full of mould?

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Steven,

I know a contractor, or should I say, I have heard of a contractor around here that rents a mister type machine from the big box store and "fumigates" the entire area with a product like Shockwave. Then will go back in the area and "treat", basically spray the wood surfaces with an anti-microbial agent like Killz. Charges a premium. The local remediation companies charge a small fortune, example; 1200sq ft home/attic area, 10K for the remediation. Took out all of the insulation etc... I think it might be a racket.

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Steven, my thoughts......

By nature, mould (why is it spelled with a "U" now?) remediation draws one to folks that are a little nuts. The jobs I've watched always had a very unbalanced homeowner who insisted that the contractor be drawn into their web of psychoses.

I think it would be a nightmare job, with high complaint rates, and accompanying headaches because the customers are always going to be a goofy.

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By nature, mould (why is it spelled with a "U" now?)

Apparently, every english-speaking country, save for the USA, spells it that way.

Jerry, sometimes it takes a very special person to appreciate your comments!

CPC,

Whew, I am pleased to see I can address you without feeling I am not able to correctly spell your name. Thanks.

I read your comments and have a couple of thoughts. The mold present may not have been present on the decking prior to installation or at least not visible at that time. Your reasoning does not make sense to me. Moisture in the attic space, in the form of vapor will condense on the decking before condensing on the framing components. Also did you consider the potential for food source in the adhesive used to make the decking? Anecdotal: I have seen hundreds of attics with hoary frost on the decking and not on the rafters. Why?, I ask.

I do own a property restoration company and have estimated approx 200 small mold remediation jobs in the last 6 weeks. Have not gotten any of the jobs because we use a sensible protocol and follow the EPA rules for legal reasons and common sense. In our area the most popular way to mitigate mold (not remediate) is fogging with equipment from the big box places. Worthless, but makes folks think they are safe. There is a place for this procedure, usually as a final task.

I gotta go now but would hope this thread continues.

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Originally posted by Caoimhín P. Connell

Since the staining is in the attic, the mould does not constitute an aesthetic problem. Since the staining in the attic is probably due to [/i] Cladosporia, and since there is no significant route of migration from the attic to the occupied space, the there is no significant risk of exposure.[/color]

Maybe it's just me, but I don't think any home inspector in his right mind would look at that picture of black stuff in the attic and tell a potential buyer Don't worry about it.

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Good morning, Gents:

I’ve read some good comments and criticisms. So I’ll address those (The last post at the time of this post was from J Bain 4/29 2009 at 05:00 AM.

Remediators:

Like anything else, remediators may or may not be a good thing. I have frequently recommended mould remediators (with all their moon suits and HEPA units) and I have frequently recommended against their services instead, recommending that the homeowner get “Joe the Handymanâ€

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